The first of two televised debates for presidential candidates opened yesterday with the three candidates discussing their visions and policies and offering promises of reform and change in their respective concluding remarks.
In his opening statements, People First Party candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) pledged that if elected, he would promote a proposal to boost the nation’s economic growth faster than that of South Korea and on par with Singapore by 2030.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) said that the KMT has not done well enough over the past eight years in which it has been in power and that he would adopt open and active policies “on the right path” if elected.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the KMT has left Taiwan with a slumping economy and a nearly bankrupt retirement pension system over the past few years and touted herself as a “problem solver” who is able to lead the nation out of its predicament.
In her concluding speech, Tsai gave tribute to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) for her part in the fight for democracy during the Martial Law period, thanking her for her courage, “so we can stand here today discussing Taiwan’s future.”
Tsai said uniting the nation is her most urgent goal and she said there are four requirements to achieve that goal, including “build a stronger system of democracy to resolve conflicts and reserve room for different voices; uncover the truth, so victims of different ethnic groups could be comforted; bring about fairness so people could restore faith in society and justice; and build a common sense of responsibility toward the nation, so all Taiwanese could unite toward a shared goal.”
Calling on voters to elect a progressive and reformative legislature and to vote down the KMT to give it an opportunity to reflect on its mistakes, Tsai said the DPP would not monopolize the government.
“I would not repeat the mistakes made by the KMT in the past eight years. I will be the most communicable president, and I would uphold the principle of transparency and openness. I would also be the most honest president and honor my promises,” she said.
Chu said Tsai was reciting a brilliantly worded speech, but that beautiful words and empty promises are the opposite of what people need, adding that Taiwan is in dire need of reformation and could not afford more bipartisan fights.
“What the DPP has done in the past eight years is damage Taiwan’s unity. The DPP’s so-called solidarity is a repetition of violence, boycotts, occupations of the legislative podium to disrupt proceedings and mudslinging campaigns. The DPP solidarity is the solidarity under DPP’s rule and there is no unity, but violence and conflict when others are in power,” Chu said.
Chu said Tsai claimed that more holidays should be allowed for workers when she needed their support, but when meeting with business leaders, she said there were already too many holidays, adding that Tsai has flip-flopped on a number of issues.
Chu said that Tsai described the 18 percent preferential interest rate on savings accounts held by civil servants as unfair, but she herself is a beneficiary of the interest rate.
If elected, Chu said he would serve as a solid prop for the younger generation, who he said deserve a better future, and that he would also spare no efforts to get back “the Taiwan that has positive force.”
Soong said Taiwan is in need of reformation, which could not be achieved without tolerance of difference and care for the next generation, adding people have seen the government become indifferent toward suffering.
“My 40 year political career could be summarized as ‘emerging out of the Martial Law period and heralding into democracy.’ I have witnessed three eras: my father’s era of wars and conflicts, my era of economic takeoff and the era of uncertainty experienced by the next generation. It is the next generation’s future that I care about most,” he said.
Showing a picture of Chuang Chu Yu-nu (莊朱玉女), a philanthropist who sold meals to workers and homeless people for NT$10 for 50 years and died in February, Soong said coins minted with her portrait should be made to commemorate her contribution, adding that there are still many people living a tough life.
“As a 70-something, I do not give up my ideals, because I have seen former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) change the nation in his seventies. We must uphold a system of freedom and democracy, and we must restore the pride of Taiwan,” Soong said in tears before making three 90-degree bows to conclude his speech.
Additional reporting by CNA
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